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What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is a group of conditions that develop when nerves, arteries and/or veins are compressed as they pass from the neck to the arm in the area between your collarbone and first rib (this space is called the “thoracic outlet”).

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome affects people differently and can lead to a variety of symptoms, including pain, numbness, paresthesias (abnormal sensations), swelling, weakness, and temperature or color changes (e.g., bluish hue) in the arm. A person with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome may notice that their grip is weaker or that their fingers and hands are frequently cold and numb. Their arm might become tired more quickly with activity, and their pulse might be diminished or absent in the affected arm.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome often develops during pregnancy due to increased blood volume, changes in posture and body mechanics, as well as pregnancy-related hormonal changes. Other risk factors for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome include poor posture, trauma, and anatomic defects, such as being born with an extra rib. Generally, women are about three times more likely to be diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome than men, but it can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can lead to complications like blood clots and, if left untreated, can lead to disability and decreased quality of life. Seek help if you or a loved one notice concerning symptoms!

Getting Help For Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Physical therapy is considered a first-line treatment for people with certain types of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Find a physical therapist who can collaborate with other providers involved in your care and offer personalized treatment that will alleviate your symptoms, reduce pressure within the thoracic outlet, and prevent recurring problems. Physical therapy for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome may include lifestyle modifications, manual therapy, postural retraining, and specific exercises and stretches.

Interested in learning more? Contact ITR Physical Therapy today to schedule an appointment in Bethesda, MD or McLean, VA.

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